The calendar may say December but the weather said otherwise at Sunday's final round of the 2006 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series, the Caster's Cyclo-cross in Warwick, Rhode Island. The '06 Series closed out just as it began as Lyne Bessette (Cyclo-crossworld.com) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclo-crossworld.com) stamped their authority all over the Elite Women's and Men's events.
Besette's win, her fifth in five starts, cemented her position as the 2006 Verge NECCS champion while Mark McCormack (Clif Shot) took home the overall title for the Elite Men, his fifth in the past six years.
Picking up where they left off two weeks ago the wife-husband duo of Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) won Saturday's W.E. Stedman Grand Prix in South Kingston, Rhode Island. Less than 20 miles from the site of next week's U.S. national Championships, the penultimate Verge NECCS race went to form, with Bessette dominating the elite women's field and Johnson forming an early breakaway and then soloing in for the elite men's win.
In the men's race, Johnson initiated a strong early move with U.S. National Champion Todd Wells (GT), Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly), and Matt White (FiordiFrutta). The quartet rode well together with White the first to come off. An acceleration by Johnson eventually dropped Wells and Powers and it was clear sailing for the defending Verge NECCS champ. Powers came in for second with Wells filling out the podium.
On Sunday, the pair once again led their respective fields. Never one to take the easy way out, Bessette opted to race the B Men's event just prior to the Elite Women's race, accumulating a solid 90 minutes of 'cross racing on the twists, turns, and sandy beach runs of the Goddard Park course. Bessette finished fifth in the men's race and credited the extended preview of the race course for her flawless performance against the Elite Women. Up-and-comer Deidre Winfield (Velo Bella-Kona) dropped 2005 Verge NECCS champion Mo Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication-Wheelworks) to take second.
"I saw where I could carry speed and what the right way was to go around the turns," said Bessette. "So I could just sit back on the first lap, knowing I had the course figured out. I made my moves in the corners, which was pretty fun. It was a big deal for me to win the New England Series and it's a great way to end my season."
On the men's side, series leader McCormack had to hold off the challenge of youngster Matt White (FiordiFrutta) in order to win his fifth NECCS title. White went off the front on the first lap, knowing he only had to finish one spot ahead of McCormack to take the jersey. He was joined by Johnson, who made the pace a bit too hot and dumped White into no-man's land after three laps. With Johnson dashing off to a convincing win McCormack caught and passed White to wrap up the title.
"Winning the Series was always a season goal for me," said McCormack, who finished third on the day behind Tristen Schouten (Trek-VW). "I would have liked to win today because I won on this course last year but getting another New England 'Cross championship really means something to me."
"I felt pretty good out there," said race winner Johnson, whose Sunday victory extends his winning streak to three. "Nationals is obviously really important and I feel pretty good going into it."
See the full report, results and photos here.